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Unstaffed '//Open Libraries//'

Introduction-what does 'open libraries' mean?

Some libraries are using a combination of technologies to extend (RFID based) self service into unstaffed operation in order to extend library opening hours.

The concept of unstaffed 'Open Libraries' has got significant traction on Denmark: “The open library concept demonstrates that it is possible to create institutions that are under the protection of the public and are designed to meet citizens’ needs in a flexible way.” (From A New ‘Open Library’ Concept. By Jens Thorhauge, Director General, Danish Agency for Libraries and Media. Scandinavian Library Quarterly, Volume 44 NO. 4 2011)

Unstaffed Libraries in the UK

'They may as well stock it with weapons and tell people where to hit the bullseye' - anger over unstaffed libraries“

CAMPAIGNERS pretended to wreak havoc in a staff-free library to show how “dangerous” they are.Members of Save Barnet Libraries carried out an experiment at Edgware Library, in Hale Lane, which is the first to pilot a scheme to see whether libraries without trained staff would work”.

Hendon & Finchley, Barnet & Potters Bar, Edgware & Mill Hill TimesWednesday 3rd February 2016

Say hello to the remote controlled library. Public Library News September 2015

“Remote controlled staffless libraries are up for an award, as “Customer project of the year”, in the V3 Technology Awards. This is the Open+ scheme where one can enter the library, in set hours, through security doors, as long as one has a library card and a PIN. The library itself can be open without any staff, paid or otherwise, within it, with security being provided by CCTV, tannoys and the ability to remotely control the computers. Peterborough love it and argue that, instead of closing libraries, they were able to extend opening hours. Whether library staff, already feeling a tad bit vulnerable after mass job losses and the sharp increase in the use of volunteers, will feel so welcoming remains to be seen”.

The idea stirred up some controversy among UK public libraries and there was a discussion thread on the LIS-PUB-LIBS discussion list. A good summary is in “Unstaffed Libraries (a contradiction in terms?)” Stop the privatisation of Public Libraries [blog] Thursday, 5 July 2012

Bibliotheca announced its Open+ open libraries solution in April 2014. The product is now established in the UK (eg Peterborough)

From the Bibliotheca website:

“open+ allows you to maintain or extend your library opening hours, providing your community with more choice and flexibility as to when and how they engage with the library service. This complete solution can automatically control and monitor building access, self-service kiosks, public access computers, lighting, alarms, public announcements and patron safety.”

Open+ UK launch of 24/7 library access from Bibliotheca. By Mick Fortune. Changing Libraries blog 21 April 2014

from the blog post

“As RFID suppliers continue their expansion into new areas of the library market – such as 3M’s Cloud Library®, or D-Tech’s The Link® – Bibliotheca’s latest offering sees the company bring a new meaning to “library management”. Open+ builds on solutions originally delivered in Denmark where the concept of the “open library” has been developing for some time now.

How does it work?

In Leeds – the first UK pilot site for the product – Open+ has just been installed in a small branch library. Bibliotheca installed CCTV cameras, audio speakers, a keypad outside the library, and the software. Leeds use the ALTO® solution developed by TALIS. Library users (over 18 only) are invited to subscribe to use Open+ and flagged in their ALTO borrower record as being an Open+ user. 60 users signed up for the service in the first 3 weeks of operation.

On arrival at the library during unstaffed hours Open+ subscribers insert their membership card into a reader linked to the ALTO system via the SIP 2.0 protocol and enter a PIN to gain access to the building. Once inside they can browse and borrow until the branch closes. Closure is announced over a loudspeaker system. Both the announcement and its timings are set by the library staff in the system parameters.

Security cameras constantly monitor the library during unstaffed hours. A central controller has access to all the security systems, cameras, speakers etc. The controller could be located anywhere with access to the internet – so could be facilities managed or maintained by council ICT services as agreed”


A New ‘Open Library’ Concept. By Jens Thorhauge, Director General, Danish Agency for Libraries and Media. Scandinavian Library Quarterly, Volume 44 NO. 4 2011

Open libraries in Denmark By Jonna Holmgaard Larsen Chief Consultant Danish Agency for Culture, libraries. Scandinavian Library Quarterly. Volume 46. no. 3 May 2013

Self-service libraries, known as open libraries, are popular. 180 of Denmark’s 450 libraries are now open libraries – and more are on their way. It started at Silkeborg public library in Jutland in 2004. The municipality were to take over the library service in Gjern, a rural municipality with very small local libraries. It would require heavy staff expenses and the municipality had to economize – also in terms of the libraries.

But the library’s wish to provide a better offer within the economic framework led to the idea of trying to let the users unlock the libraries themselves. Funding from the Danish Library Agency (now part of the Danish Agency for Culture) kick-started the experiment and in collaboration with the innovation firm Cordura the technology was developed, and the borrowers were very satisfied with the new library.

The model

The definition of an open library, engendered by the Silkeborg model, is a library department, which apart from the staffed hours, has been extended with more opening hours, where the citizen herself can “unlock the door”. Access is typically by way of a borrower’s ticket or the medical card that every Dane possesses, or a special borrower’s ticket with inbuilt RFID chip for verification of the user.

Over a period of several years, the development of library infrastructure in Denmark has moved towards centralization. With the municipal reform of 2007, the municipalities became fewer and larger – the libraries followed suit; several small branches were closed, resulting in renewed strength of the main libraries.

The Library System company Axiell describes the offering in Services to complement the complete self-service library. Axiel website 12 September 2013

“The idea is that users have access to the library even when staff have finished their shift, so is the idea of an unmanned library. Customers can, for example, borrow and return materials in machines.

- Libraries are for the people. This allows us to improve our service and to provide library space for more visits, although the staff are not present. Sure, the room will be monitored technically but the concept Open Library is built on trust, says manager at the library, Mikko Vainio.

The concept of Open Library is already used in several other countries, for example. Denmark and Sweden, where it has become very popular. The first Open Library in Finland, which Axiell Finland has delivered, in Mietoinen village in the city of Mynämäki. On international level there are already about 80 Open libraries and results have been positive”.

unstaffed_open_libraries.txt · Last modified: 2018/09/20 15:07 (external edit)